The Cupertino-based tech giant may be pumping the brakes on its long-rumored Apple AR headset, something that was reportedly slated to see a release as early as 2020. A DigiTimes Taiwan report (via MacRumors) now suggests that Apple has disbanded the team behind it, effectively putting its consumer AR device on hold.

DigiTimes cites “people familiar with the situation,” saying that the team was disbanded back in May, and its members reassigned to other divisions within the company.

The reason, the Chinese language report maintains, is owed to Apple’s inability to make the device lightweight enough, include 5G networking, and offer a mature library of content.

DigiTimes primarily reports Apple info based on sources in the company’s supply chain; the report’s claims are unsubstantiated and will likely remain that way knowing their penchant for never commenting on in-development products.

If you can believe the news, it likely signifies a suspension of Apple’s AR headset ambitions for the near-term; it’s clear they definitely haven’t shelved AR R&D altogether. Apple continuously advertises a number of job positions dealing with AR software and hardware. At three successive WWDC dev conferences, the company has also showcased iterative versions of ARKit, the iOS-based augmented reality developer tool.

The latest version, ARKit 3, brings a number of key technologies to AR developers including people occlusion, multiple face-tracking, and motion capture with a single camera—technologies that will not only be important to making the AR experience more useful and fluid for smartphone-based AR users now, but fundamentally seeds the developer community with the basic hardware and software to create the sort of apps that may one day run on an official Apple AR headset.

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And as a consumer-oriented company, Apple doesn’t typically launch expensive developer hardware like how Microsoft and Magic Leap have done with their respective headsets, the HoloLens 1 & 2 and Magic Leap One. When a hypothetical Apple AR headset does come, you can bet the company will want to be the leader of a consumer product segment, and not a manufacturer catering to developers and enterprise customers with deep enough pockets.

CEO Tim Cook told The Independent in late 2017 that the company doesn’t intend on being first to offer a consumer AR headset anyway.

“We don’t give a rat’s about being first, we want to be the best, and give people a great experience. But now anything you would see on the market any time soon would not be something any of us would be satisfied with. Nor do I think the vast majority of people would be satisfied.”

The DigiTimes report comes in the wake of the departure of high-profile hardware designer Jony Ive, who left the company to start his own design firm, LoveFrom. As Apple’s chief design officer, Ive is best known for his work on many of the company’s most defining products such as the original iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Macbook Air, and Apple Watch.

Notably, HoloLens co-inventor and Apple’s senior manager of prototype development Avi Bar-Zeev also left the company earlier this year.

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  • impurekind

    It’s just not AR’s time yet.

    VR is where it’s at.

    • Hymen Cholo

      I think eventually the ideal is for the HMD to do both, be AR and VR capable.

      • Rosko

        I agree i just think it would be hard to put out a product that would be consumer friendly. They won’t release a niche product.

      • impurekind

        Yeah, I would agree that in an ideal world this is where it should go.

    • Vegeta785

      What about MR?

  • airball

    Releasing an AR headset would be a strange direction for them to go. Two years into the mobile AR SDKs and we have yet to see a *single* app outside Pokemon Go gain any traction. There are fundamental challenges that still require breakthroughs to make this a consumer-friendly device. What Hololens and MLeap do are nice tech demos, but translating that into the next blockbuster device is a long, long way off. When we get there though, it will be magical.

    • Trenix

      The vast majority of people who play Pokemon Go, don’t even use the AR feature anyway. They may take a picture of or two with a Pokemon, about it. Even that feature is far from perfect and unreliable.

    • dk
      • ssdfg

        they also stole a lot of that tech

  • John Overholt

    Good, I want them to get it right, replace smart phones!

    • Bob

      Then everyone on the subway train will be looking at each other rather than looking down! ;)

    • Jarilo

      Replace smart phones with dumb glasses.

      • Peter K

        I see you hating everywhere, are you hurt mate?

        • Jarilo

          I’m fine, thanks Dr. Phil.

  • VirtualRealityNation

    All ahead Hololens 2. Enterprise applications are going to be the AR beachfront for the next 2-3 years.

  • wow

    Apple innovating is highly unlikely that’s why I can see this being true

  • sfmike

    I’m sure they have decided there isn’t a big enough market for this and profits before innovation is the corporate rule.

    • Jarilo

      Yea, they’re going to let other companies do all the hard work before they jump in when it’s prime time and take credit.

      • Nepenthe

        Come on, the world NEEDS Apple to go ahead and invent consumer VR, don’t you think?

      • Precisely. They can’t do anything until other companies create the technology and test it all out first, then they can copy the good bits, put it into their own product, and market the it all to death.

        We’ve invented AR/VR, etc…. Buy! Buy! Buy!

        • Jarilo

          Yup, the idea that they are amazing innovators is a complete lie. What Apple is however is a Champion of marketing. Look, it’s the same product as quest…but it’s sleek and shiny…don’t you want it Britney and Jennifer? Yea…you do…all your friends have it…why don’t you?

  • Michael Slesinski

    awww, whats wrong mac-nerds? cant even steal other peoples ideas properly without steevie?

    • Jarilo

      VR is still being innovated and worked on, it’s not time for them to steal yet. lol

  • johann jensson

    Who needs Apple? And, more importantly, who needs AR? It’s completely uninteresting for us gamers anyway (beyond the usual casual garbage).

    • Nepenthe

      Really good AR could be seriously awe-inspiring for gaming. Well, combination gaming and LARPing. I can’t wait.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      It’s pretty presumptuous to assume that AR needs gamers. Mobile gaming is a gigantic market, more than half of all smartphone owners play games at least occasionally, but games account for only about 10% of the time user spend on their phones. And this statistic is somewhat distorted, because 80% of the total gaming time is spend by users younger than 25 years. Most of the games are casual Match-3, Clash of Clan clones etc.

      In other words, there is a huge market for mobile information devices that is on average to 95% not about gaming. Games are just a nice add-on for most, esp. outside of South Korea, China and the below 25 age group.

      There are a number of big pushes for AR, but they are coming from companies like Ikea, fashion retailers or real estate agents. I’m sure there will be games once AR glasses are usable, but the primary function will always be information display, be it navigation, review checking for whatever you look at or visualising something in your home, on your body or in the proper place not to break it or accidentally kill you. Games work much better in confined spaces like VR or on a 15min subway ride starring at a tiny screen, where you don’t have to move around and cannot get run over by a car or fall down an actual cliff.

      • Peter K

        AR is last phase of computing before we integrate chips into our brains, but some people don’t see its utilities.

      • johann jensson

        Isn’t this site about VR gaming?

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          From the “About Road to VR” page:

          “Founded in 2011, Road to VR is the world’s leading independent news publication dedicated to the consumer virtual reality industry. We explore the bleeding edge of virtual reality, augmented reality, and human-computer interaction. We’re charting the course between today’s immersive technology and that of the distant future, capable of perfect simulations of reality.”

          Doesn’t even mention games, but mentions AR. Games just happen to be the most prominent type of application for the current first generation of consumer VR, so they are reported about often.

  • Nepenthe

    It’s ~10 years behind VR I reckon. 2026 we see the first really good first-gen consumer AR glasses that you can actually walk around with all day. By 2033 they start to really reach the point where everyone wants one and doesn’t want to leave home without one.

    • Immersive_Computing

      There was a great example of everyday, widely used AR in Hulu’s mars mission TV show “The First” (Sean Penn).

      A number of characters use “heavy glasses” devices for AR and VR during the show. This show is set in early 2030’s which is probably correct in terms of technology for AR

      • Nepenthe

        Hmm, always interested in portrayals of AR technology — I’ll check The First out. Thx.

        • Immersive_Computing

          There are a couple of pivotal scenes where characters use their glasses for AR and VR with automatic content synchronization between glasses to allow sharing

    • dk

      https://youtu.be/M9A9u-lwjTs it’s about 3-5 years behind

    • Ted Joseph

      Dont say that… (frown). . I am getting older to quickly, and may be dead before I can enjoy this technology…

  • Kenneth Richlin

    they got stuck on how to upgrade their video cards…. typical Mac pitfall…

  • deckert

    This is BS. 1. Apple wouldn’t put 5G in an AR HMD if they are releasing in 2020 – not only is the chip set not there yet – power requirements are crazy bad – and the health concerns that are being raised when you put a 5G single next to your brain. I think this is just another false flag.

  • dk
  • Ted Joseph

    Ahhhh crap! I have been waiting for a low weight, wearable AR glasses product from Apple patiently. If NReal can do it with a few people in a startup, why cant Apple? Come on Apple!!!

  • fuyou2

    GOOD.. NO ONE WANTS FUCKING APPLE…

  • namekuseijin

    it’s obviously a bit more challenging trying to project images onto reality without the use of heavy lenses and to track real things moving without sensors, etc. all without using a heavy pc or console… Quest is a VR headset and feels heavy on the face and tracks the controllers and your surroundings, but not anything else… truly more challenging and let’s not forget this is part of the ongoing commercial wars rising costs…